Out of Focus on the Old Cheers Days: "That Was our Life Back Then"
The band played nearly all of the venues open to them at the time, from the Zipperhead Room to Churchills, and from the Button South to Roses on the Beach. Their favorite place to play -- and the venue they are to this day most synonymous with -- was Cheers. Located on SW 17th Avenue in Miami, Cheers was the all ages epicenter of the mid-'90s punk scene and Out of Focus were right in the midst of it all, becoming such regular participants that the late owner Gaye Levine employed both Fernandez and Moore for a multitude of odd jobs including, but not limited to, collecting money at the door, barbacking, bouncing and tech work.
"Cheers was our place," says Fernandez. "I mean, if you lived in Miami and were into the punk rock scene, or hardcore or ska or whatever you were into, Cheers was really the place to be in the Kendall, Coconut Grove and Gables area. It got to the point where we had free reign to play whenever we wanted to with whoever we wanted simply because we were local guys and we got along with everyone and the owner. Big names would come to town like Lagwagon and Face to Face... We played with No Use for a Name, which was the biggest show we ever had at the time. We just wanted to be there, to be in that scene, for every show, good or bad. That was our life back then."
By 1997, however, tears in the band's fabric began to show. Guitarist Bill Tuttle's departure from the band had it operating as a four piece for a short while (he most recently played in Madmartigan), drummer Mike Nacinmeinto began to regularly opt out of practice (he later left to join the Navy), and bassist Trey Hammond was spreading himself too thin, playing in several bands including Foolproof, which became his main gig.
"It just seemed like me and John were the only two people really into it," says Fernandez. "We tried to hold some sort of musical thing together, but it didn't really work out, not on my end at least."
He, Moore and Hammond tried to start a new project together, A Few Good Men, with Against All Authority drummer Sidney Goldberger, but nothing came of it. After graduating from Killian in 1998, Fernandez attended Johnson and Wales culinary school in North Miami. Upon completion, he enlisted in the Army in September 2000 for eight years. When the September 11th attacks occurred a year later, he was deployed to Iraq. When he got out, he moved to Fort Myers for a while, playing locally here and there ("Nothing big," he says), just to do something while pursuing his culinary career. He has since moved out to North Carolina, at first to open a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse -- for which he served as executive chef -- and currently to work at a restaurant called Avenue M. He rents a small house in Asheville, where he lives with his girlfriend and his dog.
After all this time, however, he still feels the urge to play now and then.
"I would do anything to be in a band again, even if it was for a couple days a week and not even playing shows," he says. "For me, music was my dream for a really long time."
John Moore barely skipped a beat after the fallout of Out of Focus and the subsequent failed side project with Fernandez, first with a ska outfit called Los Anti-fuzz (or "the Anti-fuzz"), a band comprised of half the members of the Peckers and Jacques Laroche, who sang for the band. They played locally for a short stint, sharing the stage with the Skatalites, among other acts. When they broke up, he departed for North Carolina to start a musical project with an avant-garde poet and made a stopover in Boston before returning to the unofficial capital of Florida, where he started the quintet, Underpaid, with Tuttle on guitar, John Vale (who more recently fronted the Furious Dudes) on vocals, Bryan Keller on bass and Joel Suarez, who'd played alongside Out of Focus in Endo and Level 9. They did a few mini Florida tours before parting ways.